For a man whose last name is Musk, his choice as Time magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’ stinks for a great many Americans. They have a wide range of reasons to attribute their intense dislike for him to—the world’s richest man happily not paying his share of tax, a union buster and someone who has played down the dangers of Covid in a country where nearly 800,000 people have died due to the virus.
Of course, there are several other reasons why Tesla billionaire Elon Musk, whose net worth is around $300 billion, is someone who readily qualifies to be called a dick. Those who follow him on Twitter would know many. Were he, not an obscenely wealthy man, he would probably struggle to find friends.
All those traits did not preclude his choice for what is essentially a marketing gimmick by a magazine struggling to stay relevant. Off the top of their heads, how many people would be able to recall who Time magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’ was even last year. The magazine, which has come in for some sharp criticism for its choice, has described him as a “clown, genius, edgelord, visionary, industrialist, showman”. It has been said this is not an award but “recognition of the person who had the most influence on the events of the year, for good or for ill”.
My response is not so much about Musk as it is about the silliness of this recognition. It means nothing other than creating some transient interest in the magazine. It changes nothing, nor does it contribute anything to anything other than perhaps drawing some attention to Time for a short while. The same goes for its foolishly coveted list of 100 most influential people of the year. Hardly anyone would remember names on the list barely a week after it is published.
Whether Musk deserves to be on Time’s cover is entirely the call for Time’s editors to make. Such decisions are not open to public debate except that the magazine’s owners are motivated by its circulation figures as much as they are by its popularity. Choosing Musk gives it the visibility it so craves like any other publication.
The fact that all manners of people are weighing in on the choice clearly shows that the magazine has succeeded in its primary purpose which is to seek attention. I am sure even the editors know that such covers and lists are fads with ever-shortening shelf life.
No matter how hard Time tries to give its cover gravitas and a seriousness of purpose when it comes to ‘Person of the Year’, at its core it is just an annual gimmick that gives those featuring in it some bragging rights for a short while.
Despite my personal dismissiveness about the relevance of Time covers it is obvious that there are many who care and perhaps even hanker after it. Musk, otherwise known to be often pointlessly abrasive, tweeted just a simple “Thank you” to Time.
It is amusing to see people suggesting alternatives to Time editors instead of Musk as if that means anything. Think of Time as a business establishment that reserves the right to entry or service or, in its case, the right to publication. It is a private enterprise and can decide whomever it wants to feature on its cover for any reason whatsoever, including someone who is reflexively churlish.